Pubdate: Thu, 28 Sep 2017
Source: Intelligencer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017, The Belleville Intelligencer
Author: Tim Miller
Page: A1


Anti-smoking advocates question impact of marijuana legalization on
smoking rates

With marijuana legalization looming on the horizon, antismoking
advocates are hoping the soon-to-be recreational substance won't send
some of their efforts up in smoke.

"We're definitely keeping an eye on it," said Hastings Prince Edward
Public Health health protection program manager Roberto Almeida.

Legalization of cannabis for recreational use is expected to come into
effect July 1, 2018 with the product available in Ontario either by
purchasing from 150 LCBO-run stores or through a government-controlled

The new legislation comes at a time when tobacco smoking prevalence in
Ontario is at an all-time low. The smoking rate in the province fell
from 24.5 per cent in 2000 to 17.4 per cent in 2014 - representing
408,000 fewer smokers. Canadian Community Health Survey results for
2016 released Wednesday show the rate has dropped even further, down
to 16 per cent.

Almeida said there is some worry the availability of legal marijuana
could halt or reverse that downward trend.

"We know that marijuana smokers, I think, one in five will smoke
tobacco," said Almeida. "So we are concerned about potentially the
impact the legislation could have."

Almeida said while research shows cannabis is not as harmful as
tobacco, or even alcohol, it's not without its own health risks.

"Anytime you inhale something that's been combusted into your lungs,
there's a health issue," he said.

Chronic, consistent use of cannabis can have long-term effects on the
brain and mental health, said Stephanie Vance, public health nurse in
chronic disease and injury prevention. Vance was referencing recent
research by Health Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

"Some of the long-term effects from smoking cannabis are similar to
smoking tobacco," added Vance. "That could include health-risks to
your lung health like bronchitis, risk of lung infection, chronic
cough, increased mucus build-up in the throat."

The Canadian Lung Society expressed similar concerns in a Marijuana
Position Statement posted on its website.

"The inhalation of smoke is harmful to lung health as the combustion
of materials releases toxins and carcinogens," it states. "These are
released regardless of the source - whether it is burning wood,
tobacco or marijuana.

"Knowledge about the long-term effects of marijuana smoke is still
limited but early research studies have demonstrated harm that can
lead to chronic bronchitis."

Vance said evidence is still developing.

"This is what it says right now, based on what we have out there," she
said. "There's always more information coming. Hopefully we have what
we need before legalization happens."

Almeida said they're expecting to see public education campaigns
coming from the province on the potential perils of pot use.

"So we're cautiously optimistic that there might be an uptick in
marijuana consumption, but that won't hopefully change the downward
trend for smoking so far," he said.

"We'll see what happens, it's going to be an interesting year,
year-and-a-half, two years, to see how society adapts."
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